How Nutrition and Sleep Can Improve Your Rowing Performance

Today’s guest blog post comes to LEO Training from Annie Crawford.

Rowing is a sport that isn’t for the faint of heart. Demanding both aerobic and anaerobic energy, it is a test of strength, endurance, and a mental challenge all rolled into one. It is popular because of the wealth of benefits it provides, more than your usual cardio on a treadmill. Its advantages include increased heart rate and oxygen consumption, strength and fat loss among other things.

Therefore, maintaining proper nutrition and getting enough sleep is the chief concern for rowers. It helps maximize athletic performance on the water, especially for those who compete. On top of rigorous training, it will allow you to last longer between intense training sessions and cut down your recovery time.

Here on the Leo Training blog, we always emphasize the importance of technique and proper form in training. But that’s not all there is to it. Athletes know first hand that having an individualized diet and getting the required rest holds the same level of importance as training itself.

Team USA rowers revealed their diets which include a mix of meat proteins, carbs and natural fruit and vegetable juices. Due to the intensity of the sport, rowers burn anywhere between 5,000 to 9,000 calories daily, so nutrition plays a key role. With rowing being a demanding total body workout, it has inspired athletes like superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to include rowing as part of their training routine. Sure to go down as one of the greatest soccer players ever, Ronaldo catapulted Real Madrid to both the Champions League and La Liga titles last season. His performance highlights how good nutrition and a good night’s sleep are important to get the most out of training and help muscles recover.

Sure enough, studies have proven that sports performance can be hindered by sleep deprivation, with World of Rowing citing how a lack of sleep may exacerbate injury rates as well as performance. For rowers, in particular, it is important to form good sleep and nutrition habits. Rowers have extremely high energy and carbohydrate requirements since they are working out their entire body in a single go. At the same time, they must aim to maintain a low level of body fat to keep a good power to weight ratio.

Carbohydrate Fuel

Carbohydrates power the muscles in your glycogen conserves, which the body relies on during exercise. This puts carbs at the top of rowers’ nutrients list and is imperative to eating right for competitions. Ideally, rowers must consume 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of their total body weight. However, you want to steer clear of fatty carbs like pasta, butter, or white bread. For a healthy boost of energy, Livestrong urges athletes to focus on high-carb foods that give energy that can sustain you throughout the day. These can be found in breakfast cereals, low-fat yogurt, and bananas.

Protein Recovery

When rowing, all major muscle groups are maxed out to their full potential. Following intense training sessions, your quadriceps, glutes, latissimus dorsi and back muscles need time and the nutrients to recover, which can be duly provided by protein. It is recommended to take in around 0.6 grams of protein for every pound of your total body weight. Lean meats, nuts, soy and low fat dairy produce are all excellent sources of protein.

When to Eat

For proper digestion, rowers should have their pre-workout meal at least three or four hours before rowing. This also ensures you maximize the energy from your meal, which should be around 500 to 1,000 calories. For post-workout replenishment, a small meal with carbohydrates and proteins 30 minutes after exercise is optimal.

Liquids for Recharging

Hydration, of course, is not to be forgotten. We all know its significance not just for rowers, but for everyone. Athletes, however, must religiously replenish with liquids, because dehydration can cause muscle cramps and faster fatigue. When exercising, make sure you always have abundant water supply on hand.

Proper Sleep

Most rowers have training schedules early in the morning, so it is important to build your sleep routine around it and ensure you still get a full eight hours. Additionally, you must pay attention to your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Disruptions can impact your athletic performance, especially athletes who are early risers.


Written by : Annie Crawford